Wednesday, August 8, 2012

One singular, sensational talent

I feel bad about losing Marvin Hamlisch. I liked him. We got to know him here in Buffalo when he was our pops conductor, I mean the Principal Pops Conductor for the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra. He was funny and he was nice.

They let me write this tribute in the paper. For the front page! I do not write for the front page very often.

And then I wrote this post for the paper's Gusto Blog. It is 8 classic Marvin Hamlisch stories I chronicled in the paper over the years. There are others but you have only so much time in the day to dig them all up. Wow, these stories are funny. I mean what he said was funny. I was laughing through my grief as I put them together.

I have a few opinions on Marvin Hamlisch that might be considered controversial. One is that I think he is greater than Stephen Sondheim. Sondheim's songs get on my nerves. They are too often opaque and overwrought. Hamlisch's songs do not get on my nerves.

Hamlisch is also a better songwriter than Andrew Lloyd Webber. Look at "Don't Cry For Me, Argentina." The melody shoots its bolt at the beginning and then peters out. Whereas Hamlisch's "What I Did For Love" just builds gracefully and gradually.

"A Chorus Line" owes more to Marvin Hamlisch than to anyone else involved. If those songs had not been good, that show would have been nothing, I do declare.

There! I have had my say.

When I was at the radio station with Marvin Hamlisch on that day I wrote about in my story in The Buffalo News, I remember he was free with his opinions. He was preoccupied with the jazz the station was playing that day. He was critical. "Too much," he said. And: "Too busy."

He knew what was good.

I will miss him!


  1. Here's a classic Hamlisch-Groucho Marx collaboration:

  2. Totally agree with your take on Hamlisch v. Sondheim and Hamlisch v. Webber. Spot on!

  3. Argh, Hamlisch better than Sondheim? Nononono in so many ways. Hamlisch was a great melodic talent, but his sensibilities were middle of the road. Sondheim is a profound artist.

    Completely agree Hamlisch is better than Webber, but I've never been a Webber fan.

  4. Solange, our brains should be studied by science to find out why we agree on some things and disagree on some things. Because some patterns are emerging although I am darned if I know what they are! Anyway, I stick to my guns on Hamlisch/Sondheim. I just do not "get" Sondheim ... maybe the way you do not "get" Lieder? ...